Antonio Brown Joins Practice; Patriots Taking Allegations ‘Very Seriously'

The Pats' newest wide receiver is accused of sexually assaulting his former trainer on three separate occasions

Antonio Brown suited up for his first practice with the New England Patriots, Wednesday, even as head coach Bill Belichick said the team was taking sexual assault allegations against the newly signed wide receiver "very seriously."

Quarterback Tom Brady, meanwhile, gave a flat "no" when asked for comment about the situation, and wouldn't speak to whether Brown is living at Brady's home.

Brown was seen participating in drills at Gillete Stadium in Foxoboro, Massachusetts wearing a No. 1 jersey, a day after he was accused in a lawsuit of sexually assaulting his former trainer on three occasions.

Brown's first practice with the Patriots came after head coach Bill Belichick reiterated that the team was taking the allegations seriously, without elaborating. 

"Both Antonio and his representatives have made statements, so I’m not going to be expanding on any of those," he said during a press conference. "They are what they are.

"We’ve looked into the situation and we’re taking it very seriously all through the organization," he added. "When we know more, we’ll say more."

When asked if Brown was expected to play Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, Belichick answered, "We'll take it one day at a time."    

Belichick repeatedly told reporters he would not offer further comment.

"I'm sure there are questions, but I'm not going to be entering a discussion about that today," he said.

After practice, Brady spoke to the media but mostly avoided mentioning Brown specifically, beyond praising the way he plays.

"I'm just trying to show up and play football," Brady said. "Things that don't involve me don't involve me."

Asked if Brown took up Brady on an offer to live with him, Brady said, "I'm not getting into all that."

The question came after Al Michaels said on "Sunday Night Football" that, according to Brown's agent, Brady opened his home to Brown until he got settled in New England.

"I suspect it was a real surprise to the Patriots," attorney Paul Kelly, a former sports industry executive and a principal at the Jackson Lewis law firm, said of the allegations.

Kelly said he doesn't believe the timing is an accident.

"Plaintiffs' lawyers do try to take advantage of these circumstances to get the largest attention brought to their cause," he said.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Florida, Britney Taylor accused Brown of sexually assaulting her three times between 2017 and 2018.

Kelly said he thinks Taylor suing Brown civilly instead of pressing criminal charges was a "strategy decision." He said that while the burden of proof is lower in a civil case, making it easier to prove guilt, the defense may try to push the narrative that Taylor is filing in civil court for a financial payout.

"It does create the impression that this is someone out for money," he said, "but we don't know that that's the case."

"We are aware of the civil lawsuit that was filed earlier today against Antonio Brown, as well as the response by Antonio's representatives," the Patriots said in a statement late Tuesday night. "We take these allegations very seriously. Under no circumstance does this organization condone sexual violence or assault. The league has informed us that they will be investigating. We will have no further comment while the investigation takes place."

Darren Heitner, Brown’s attorney, said in a statement that the wide receiver denies "each and every allegation" and said the night of the alleged rape was actually a consensual encounter. He said Brown plans to countersue.

NBC does not typically identify victims of sexual crimes, but Taylor was identified in the federal lawsuit and was quoted in a statement provided by her lawyer, David Haas.

"As a rape victim of Antonio Brown, deciding to speak out has been an incredibly difficult decision," Taylor said. "I have found strength in my faith, my family, and from the accounts of other survivors of sexual assault. Speaking out removes the shame that I have felt for the past year and places it on the person responsible for my rape."

Taylor also said in the statement she will cooperate with the NFL and any other agencies.

Brown, a Miami native, was released by Oakland last week after clashing with the team throughout training camp. He agreed to a contract with New England on Saturday but has yet to play for the Patriots.

Brown and Taylor met through a Fellowship of Christian Athletes group at Central Michigan University, according to the lawsuit.

Taylor said Brown reached out to her via Facebook in June 2017 and asked the former gymnast for help with improving his strength and flexibility.

According to the lawsuit, Taylor was sexually assaulted by Brown on separate training trips to Pittsburgh and Florida that same month. The suit includes what it says are text messages from Brown bragging about the second assault.

Taylor says in the suit she then cut off ties with Brown. But she agreed to work with him again after she says he apologized and agreed to provide hotel accommodations for each training trip.

According to the lawsuit, Taylor and Brown were in Miami in May 2018 when he raped her in a bedroom at his home. Taylor says she shouted "no" and "stop," but Brown refused.

Heitner said in his statement Taylor invited herself to join Brown and his friends on a night out on the town, and then came on to Brown before they engaged in consensual sex at his residence.

Brown was approached by Taylor in 2017, according to Heitner, about making a $1.6 million investment in a business project. But he declined.

Heitner said Taylor reached out to Brown again last year, and she traveled to his residences on multiple occasions. Heitner said she asked for tickets to a Pittsburgh Steelers game.

"Mr. Brown, whose hard work and dedication to his craft has allowed him to rise to the top of his profession, refuses to be the victim of what he believes to be a money grab," Heitner said in his statement.

Brown was originally traded from Pittsburgh to Oakland in the offseason. But a bizarre foot injury, fight with the NFL over his helmet, skipped practices, multiple fines, a run-in with general manager Mike Mayock and his social media posts ultimately led to the decision to release him.

He agreed to a deal with the defending Super Bowl champions hours after the Raiders let him go, granting his request.

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